Robert Bevis insists his family’s future hangs in the balance Tuesday night.
When the Naperville City Council passes an ordinance banning the sale of certain high-powered rifles, the outcome will directly impact two businesses in the city. While Range USA is a chain with multiple locations, Bevis family-owned Law Weapons and Supply only has one in a strip mall on North Aurora Road.
If the ordinance passes, Bevis said, his business is unlikely to survive. Faced with that possibility, he said he would exhaust all legal options to keep it viable, including seeking an injunction on the order.
Beyond his legal avenues, Bevis clearly expresses his opinion on the grounds for the proposed order.
“They know it won’t reduce any crime or stop someone from getting a gun or stop anyone from coming to Naperville to commit a crime,” he said. “Criminals don’t buy guns from stores like ours.
“It’s absolutely political theater.”
But last month Councilman Ian Holzhauer said it was his duty to act on an ordinance like this.
“As an elected official, I can do something,” he said. “It may be something small, but there is something I can do to help keep our community safe and uphold our community values.”
The first reading of the ordinance at last month’s city council meeting prompted more than 50 people to speak out on both sides of the issue. Bevis and many of his clients were among the speakers who argued that Law Weapons and Supply was part of the solution to the problem of gun violence and mass shootings.
Bevis and his followers spoke of the immense training offered at the facility, including two free hours with every gun purchase. They also talked about the level of scrutiny that goes into each gun sale. Based on the work Law Weapons is doing with law enforcement, including the Naperville Police Department, Mayor Steve Chirico and council members have agreed to insert exceptions into a revised ordinance.
The sale of high-powered rifles and high-capacity magazines would be permitted to federal, state or local law enforcement agencies and agents. The exception would also apply to the US military, including the Illinois National Guard.
Handguns and their high-capacity magazines have been removed from the list of prohibited sales.
Even with the exceptions, Bevis said, his company’s future would be in jeopardy. He said the popular AR-15 rifle and its accessories account for more than 50% of his sales, and that much of his clientele would go elsewhere if the ban went into effect.
“If I only lost the AR-15 rifle, I wouldn’t be able to pay my bills,” Bevis said. “You don’t make money just dealing with the police department. They cut out law enforcement or the military, it doesn’t matter much.”
Supporters of the sales ban said the survival of a business pales in comparison to the possible prevention of crimes like the July 4 shootings in Highland Park that killed seven people and injured dozens.
“They compare the life of a business to the life of a child: my child, your child,” Yeena Yoo, representing Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense, said at last month’s city council meeting. “There is no contest.”
Bevis argues his company is doing more to stop the shootings than the proposed order would. He said that since moving to Naperville from Oakbrook Terrace in the mid-2010s, Law Weapons has acted as a firewall preventing sales to people who shouldn’t own guns.
Still, Bevis says he knows it’s a tough climb to keep the ordinance from passing Tuesday night.
“I can’t just go out and start a new business or move to another city where this could happen again,” he said.